Eleven years ago today, Jess and I slowly rolled up an old driveway in Lawrenceville to a farmhouse. We had spent the morning googling addiction recovery facilities. To this day and without reservation, we are steadfastly confident that God’s hand guided us that morning to the place where Jess would spend the next four months in recovery.
Let me back up just a bit. I’ve never really been outspoken with Jess’ sobriety. Not because I’m ashamed of what he’s been through. Quite the opposite actually. I’ve just never felt like it was my testimony to share. But as his eleven year mark approached, I felt a nudge prompting me to be open with our journey down this road. Jess has been afforded SO many opportunities to share his story at churches, with different youth groups, in school club settings, meetings, and with countless people the Lord has placed in his path through the years.
It’s been an amazing blessing to witness, and I am unreal proud of him.
I would never try and profess to know what Jess has been through or attempt to comprehend his side of what he’s fought to overcome. My desire is to come to you from a family member’s perspective. One who firsthand witnessed what’s it’s like to almost watch a person I love wholeheartedly succumb to alcoholism. A sickness that almost tore a family apart. I witnessed God’s hand of intervention and mercy as Jess hit his rock bottom, and God so graciously called him back home.
I’ve said it in times past and I feel the depth of it when I give thought to where’s He’s brought us from: God has guided the two of us through some pretty grim times. Reflecting back on it unfailingly reaffirms that uniting us was part of His plan. A much bigger plan than we could have imagined that He had for us.
When Jess and I started dating, it didn’t take very long for me to recognize he had a problem. Of course, I had no idea the severity until much later. He was never a social drinker. Didn’t matter what we were doing or who we were going to be with, he was drinking. I convinced myself I was doing my very best for him; though I had not yet learned as I would in Al‑Anon, that shielding him from the consequences of his drinking only prolongs its course. Eventually I put my foot down. I knew he loved me, and in utter addiction ignorance, I thought that would be enough for him to stop. I was completely oblivious to the power of addiction.
Inevitably I drew my line in the sand and we were done. This didn’t last very long and once we were back together, I was in too deep to leave him again. I know it was the Lord that allowed me to continue seeing all the good in Jess underneath what had a hold of him.
On September 10th, Jess woke up to God’s convicting spirit revealing to him He had gone as far as He would allow him to go, and it was time to come back. He told me that night that it was one of the most terrifying feelings he has ever felt. He nobly and humbly came clean with his parents AND mine. Then he drove to my house to fully come clean with me.
If you’re in the throws of trying to help a loved one escape the clutches of addiction, I hope this blog conveys a message of hope. I myself wanted so desperately to take on the role of fixer and healer so many years ago. It’s just my nature. But it was a burden I couldn’t carry.
It’s hard to watch someone you love live a rampant self-destructive life. To helplessly observe them going down a dark path, abusing mercy and kindness. There were times I covered up for Jess. Rationalized, enabled, basically did everything you’re not supposed to do for an addict. I wasn’t thinking clearly: I guess they say love is blind for a reason.
The Bible says love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). This is powerful scripture. Love suffers long, and is kind; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Cor 13: 4-8). If I’m being honest, there were times I felt loving and supporting Jess only enabled him to continue in the way he was going. It seemed like I repeatedly showed love, only to have it trampled. But here’s the thing, and please hear me. Ultimately what matters most when we have a loved one that is in dire need of deliverance and mercy, is that we hold firm to the truths in the scriptures. We cast our feelings aside and stand firm on His promises. If we choose to do this, the choice is simple. We revert back to the scripture in Corinthians on love. We love, and we love hard.
Love recognizes the sickness in addiction with compassion. Love is the agent for change. It can soften a hardened heart. Your loved one desperately needs your love; AND your confidence in the love of Christ. It’s really the only thing you CAN offer besides staying diligent in prayer.
God reaches farther, speaks clearer, and moves stronger than we ever could.
Although the details of yours of your family’s addiction and recovery story may be different than ours, the core experience is the same. Identifying with others who have been through addiction and made it to the other side can bring a sense of relief and peace. It can provide both hope and opportunity to perhaps feel a little less alone. That’s what I hope to accomplish today.
Wherever you are on this journey, I want you to be encouraged. I can’t put into words how thankful I am that I didn’t give up hope when it all seemed hopeless. I look around me and see what I would have missed out on. Not only the tangible blessings, like my husband and children…but the humbling strength I draw from the experience as a whole. That in itself, is invaluable.
To the loved one of the addict, I see you. I feel you. I was you. Don’t give up hope. Don’t stop loving, praying, believing. To the young person, be careful with the decisions you make. Don’t be naive enough to think it could never be you (statistically one in ten Americans has a drug or alcohol abuse problem)…you might find yourself heading down a road you never intended to travel down.
And to the precious struggling one who may be reading…you are oh so very near and dear to my heart. Cling to the truth that God rules over every moment of your life. What looks like the end, may just be the beginning. What feels and seems hopeless, may be God’s instrument to give you real and lasting hope. Whatever you’re bound to, there’s hope and there’s help. You don’t have to feel ashamed, broken or empty. Our heavenly Father longs to break every chain that binds you, radically change your life, and set you completely free.
For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37
Footnote: Dedicated to my loving husband, Jess Clark, on your eleven year sober birthday. I’m so so proud of you, blessed by you, and undeserving to call you mine. Today and every day.
3 thoughts on “Eleven”
My heart has been deeply touched by your story Julie
About Jess and your life and
Struggles. It has made me love
You more than I already did.
How Amazing it is when God
Is the answer when we turn it
Over, he always will take a hurt
In someone’s life to touch so many others. You and Jess will
Never know how much you are truly loved by so many people, and how proud we are of you
Julie and Jess for what you have
Show us, despair, courage, love,
Compassion, victory and so much
May God continue to Bless your
Lives for the Blessing you have
Given to so so many.
And we will Give God The Glory!
Great things he will do,
this just completely made me my day. thank you for sharing your story & a little of my buddy Jess’s too. Addiction is so scary & i have learned to lean on my faith. I was a huge pothead & would drink nearly every weekend to oblivion- sometimes during the week. I too faced many hardships & that was my way of telling myself it was fine & that i deserved it. I have learned to trust God to be in control b/c I still have days where I would love to get high, completely relax, & ignore everything going on in my life, but that’s the addiction part. I am so proud of Jess & thank again for sharing. Prayers for many more years of sobriety. being positive. Glad you stuck by Jess – bc you guys have a beautiful family.
Like you said — you just never know truly know someones story – be humble, kind, & show LOVE.
I believe with everything JESUS has given me, from the ashes HE is able to bring forth his most prized people! If you’ve never been there, in that desperate, dark world, you have never truly experienced GOD’S precious GRACE&MERCY! Julie & Jess thank you! So thankful to have read and felt HIM in your testimony! 😘😘😘